A young Santa, a brave and resourceful mouse, a family who celebrate Christmas all year round and a lonely girl who makes an unusual but special new friend and saves the Christmas post all contribute to a festive bundle of books that are perfect reads as we countdown to Christmas.
Little Santa by Jon Agee
Little Santa loves life in the North Pole. He likes making snow angels and snowmen, decorating pine trees and making gingerbread people. However the rest of his family don’t enjoy life there nearly as much. The daily grind of wood chopping, snow shovelling and mending means they go around looking extremely glum. Santa with his little smiling face wearing his bright red suit stands out on every page among his parents and siblings with their drab clothing and their miserable expressions. Could it be that little Santa is in some way different? When the family decide they have had enough and want to to move to Florida it is Little Santa’s turn to be down in the dumps. A blizzard prevents the move but traps the family in their home. The resourceful Little Santa enlists the help of reindeer and elves to save them and eventually his path ahead is revealed to the reader.
This quirky book would be lovely to share with younger children prompting questions and discussion. The illustrations in a slightly cartoonish style are clear and uncluttered and the wry text is short enough to keep the attention of little ones. Portraying Santa as a child enables even the youngest reader to identify with the character and this original Christmas picture book has an appeal that should make it a popular book to return to each year.
The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent illustrated by Selom Sunu
I confess to being a last minute Christmas sort of person but Mel Taylor-Bessent has converted me with her debut. A story that bounces along full of festive giggles led by the irrepressible Holly Carroll whose boundless enthusiasm for Christmas and life is hard to resist. Every day is Christmas Day for the Carroll family with a house festooned in fairy lights all year round, carols and Christmas food every day, they are an oasis of winter cheer in a September heatwave. Selom Sunu’s illustrations convey the humour of the situation and add to the fun. When the family move house and Holly starts school for the first time having been previously home educated their approach to life is met with bewilderment by many and hostility by some. As Holly struggles to adapt to others she learns some lessons about life but others gradually learn what is most important in return.
Among the jokes and the frivolity there is kindness and appreciation of others and what really matters in this jolly book. Holly’s blossoming friendship with Archer is lovely to witness and there is an important message about the value of spreading kindness and goodwill little by little. The Christmas Carrolls is guaranteed to make young readers giggle and is lots of fun to share.
Wishyouwas by Alexandra Page illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee
This delightful debut has everything a traditional children’s adventure should have. It is December 1952 and Penny Black is staying with her Uncle Frank while her mother, an airmail pilot, is in France unable to return home due to the smog which is shrouding London. As Christmas approaches Penny feels lonely and longs to be reunited with her mum but then she discovers a small creature in the post office one night, trying to make off with a letter. Talkative but with a bit of a problem with his grammar Wishyouwas, for that is the creature’s name, introduces Penny to a fascinating secret world hidden in the tunnels underneath the city’s streets. Alongside the other Sorters he rescues letters that have gone astray and makes sure they get delivered to their rightful owners. Penny is determined to protect the Sorters and keep them safe from Stanley Scrawl, the sinister Royal Mail Rat Catcher, who is on the prowl.
The settings in this enjoyable adventure are wonderfully atmospheric, both the smoggy London streets of the 1950s and the brilliantly imagined world inhabited by the Sorters. Although comparisons with the Borrowers are inevitable this has a fresh originality that is endearing. The growing bond of friendship between Penny and Wishyouwas is central to the story and the blossoming of both characters thanks to their friendship is touching. Children will love this battle between good and evil and the sinister villain is one they will want to see defeated. Wishyouwas would be lovely to read aloud, the clever wordplay and amusing names adding to the enjoyment, but it is perfect for confident readers too. My proof copy was without the illustrations but those I have seen online show that Penny Neville-Lee has captured the essence of the story perfectly.
How Winston Came Home for Christmas by Alex T Smith
Can it really be three years since we first met Winston? Since then the brave and kind hearted little mouse and his friends have become a feature of the build up to Christmas in a similar way to the traditional Advent calendar. In this sequel it is five days until Christmas and Winston has a Very Curious Mystery to solve. Deep in his memory is a vague recollection of another mouse, now missing from his life, who he knows is important. After promising his friend Oliver that he will be back in time for Christmas Winston sets out on a round-the-world adventure to find the missing mouse.
Once again written in 24-and-a-half-chapters to be read daily with each chapter including its very own festive activity for all the family to enjoy together this is perfect to share with children at home or in school. Every single page fizzes with Christmas magic. The descriptions of the smells of festive food, the pretty decorations and the mounting excitement as the tension in the adventure mounts all contribute to the build up to Christmas Day itself. The big problem is going to be resisting reading this in one glorious gulp. The gorgeous artwork, be that in the chapter headings, the vignettes or the full double page spreads is full of warmth, detail and smiles. This is a stunning book full of wit and happiness. The activities include craft and cookery from around the world but also suggestions of considerate acts to do for others. Most importantly this is a kind book, full of gentle encouragement and nurturing. The overwhelming message that no matter how small you are you can do big things with the help of friends and kindness is empowering for children. A hopeful message that is just right for Christmas.
Finally, there is a new paperback edition to look out for. The new chapter book version of How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T Smith is here. This is a delight and its short chapters and attractive black and white illustrations make it just right for newly confident readers. This story of bravery, kindness and forging new friendships has quickly become a Christmas classic and this lovely new version introduces it to a wider audience.
All these books are available to purchase via Bookshop.org who support independent bookshops by clicking on the book titles above.
I should like to thank Scallywag Press, Farshore, Bloomsbury Children’s Books and MacMillan Children’s Books for my review copies.
“Disclosure: If you buy books linked to our site, we may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops.”
This looks like a lovely list Anne, I hope I get a chance to read Wishyouwas, you make it sound very appealing!
It has a real traditional appeal, Veronica, I know I’d have loved it as a child. My review is based on a proof but the finished version is in hardback with lovely illustrations. I think it would make a lovely present.
Pingback: Reading Matters – children’s book news | Library Lady